SARASOTA, Fla. — It was this week last year that Eduardo Rodriguez’s season began to unravel.

On Thursday, Rodriguez will make the spring debut that was robbed from him last year by a bad step while catching fly balls during batting practice. That led to a dislocated kneecap. Primed to be the No. 2 pitcher in Boston’s rotation behind David Price, Rodriguez instead didn’t debut until the final day of May. Within a month he was at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Although unhappy about the demotion, a year later Rodriguez can acknowledge just how beneficial that brief time at Pawtucket was for him. It cleared his mind and clarified his approach as a pitcher.

“I had time being by myself down there, working with (Pawtucket pitching coach) Bob Kipper and just thinking of working to get back. It was not like in the big leagues when I was thinking of staying there and had a lot of stuff on my mind,” Rodriguez said. “It was different going down there. I just kept working there to get back. That’s what made me change to go back and do how I did.”

To limit the time frame of Rodriguez’s reconstruction to his two-start July stint in Pawtucket would overlook the cumulative work that had been put in before that point. But once he was relieved from the pressures of performing in the majors, Rodriguez could embark on that process more earnestly.

It was not an overly complicated process, as the mechanical issues that beguiled Rodriguez followed a simple cause-and-effect narrative. Heading into last spring, Rodriguez already had some mechanical tweaks on his agenda. He needed to make his delivery more consistent to prevent tipping his pitches, and was considering adding a cutter and/or curveball.

The changes became more major following the knee injury. Rodriguez essentially copied the windup of David Price, moving his body 90 degrees on the rubber so he was no longer facing the batter when he started his windup. It simplified things for a pitcher still concerned about putting too much pressure on his right knee.

“There was still a little bit of doubt there,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “He (eliminated) change of direction as he was getting over the rubber to not put stress on that knee.”

The change didn’t play, and Rodriguez’s season bottomed out with a disastrous outing at Tampa Bay. He allowed nine runs on 11 hits in only 22/3 innings. His ERA sat at 8.59 at the end of June.

“I don’t think he was happy that he was back in Pawtucket, but he knew he needed to be there to turn things around,” said Kipper.

The plan was simply to get back to the pitcher Rodriguez had been prior to the injury. That meant using his old wind-up and scrapping a cutter that didn’t differentiate enough from his slider.

“For me it was, ‘This is what your game looked like. Let’s get better at doing those things,’ ” said Kipper. “Sometimes better means more consistently doing what I do well. That’s better. It didn’t require tinkering.”

Rodriguez has a tight relationship with Kipper, dating to their shared time in Portland in 2014.

“Every time I went to the mound or was in the bullpen, I was stuck to him. Every time I watched the game, I was stuck to him,” Rodriguez said. “He helped me a lot to be who I am.”

Rodriguez found that self for good in Pawtucket. He made only two more starts in Triple-A before rejoining the Red Sox after the All-Star break in New York. He allowed a run over seven innings that night, the catalyst for a terrific second half that saw him post a 3.24 ERA over 14 starts.

“I was healthy,” Rodriguez said of the second half. “A lot of things didn’t run through my mind with my knee and my mechanics.”

“The way he threw the baseball his last handful of starts, that was powerful. The swing-and-miss to his fastball was clearly there,” Manager John Farrell said. “I know he went into the offseason with a boost of confidence.”

Rodriguez is just excited to be spending spring on the field.

“Last year I was sitting on the table in the trainers’ room. I had to see everybody pitch,” he said. “This year I’m going to pitch in the games and battle to see if I can get one of those spots.”

If every starter is healthy, Rodriguez may still be the odd man out for the rotation because he still has minor-league options. But at least he’s presenting himself as an option this time in camp.

“I’ve never been at Opening Day,” he said. “I’m just going to try to do the best I can do and leave the rest in their hands.”

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